Film enthusiasts, Bond lovers, and Scots around the world united on Saturday, 31 October 2020 when it was announced that Sir Sean Connery had died. A sometimes divisive but overall iconic figure whose career spanned seven decades, Connery was the first Bond, and to many, the best.
Although he was best known for his role as 007 through the 60s and 70s (and then again for a brief period in 1983), Connery actually received his only Academy Award and two Golden Globes in the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout his later active years, he also became renowned off-screen for his political beliefs and status as a tax exile.
To celebrate the life and achievements of one of cinema’s giants, and the first man to play the world’s most famous secret agent, we’ve put together a list of five must-watch films starring Sean Connery. Read on to find out what they are.
#1 - Goldfinger
Director: Guy Hamilton
Also Starring: Honor Blackman, Gerd Fröbe
IMDb Score: 7.7
Connery appeared in six of the first seven Bond films, released over the nine years between 1962 and 1971. He passed the role over to George Lazenby for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969 before returning for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. Then, in 1983, at the age of 53, he returned for the seventh and final time as 007 in the non-Eon Never Say Never Again.
However, of the seven Bond films in which he starred, one was notably more successful (both critically and commercially) than the others: Goldfinger. It was also the first Bond film to win an Academy Award (for Best Sound Editing).
Widely recognised as the film that brought 007 success on an international stage, Goldfinger sees Connery’s Bond go head-to-head with the wealthy and psychopathic Auric Goldfinger. It is also well-remembered for Goldfinger’s silent and iconic henchman, Oddjob, and his razor-edged hat.
#2 - Hunt For Red October
Director: John McTiernan
Also Starring: Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn
IMDb Score: 7.6
A glorious example of what cinema had to offer in the late 80s and early 90s, The Hunt For Red October stars Connery as a Soviet submarine captain who goes rogue in the dying days of the Cold War. Despite his age - Connery was 60 when the film was released - his role as Captain Marko Ramius is one of the most brutal and commanding performances of his career.
The film is an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s 1984 debut novel and marks the first screen appearance of Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan. Just like Goldfinger, it won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, and stories of the time spent filming it saw Connery describe the experience as “very claustrophobic”, among other things.
While it is by no means a highly intelligent or philosophical piece of cinema, Red October is an excellent and ultimately efficient thriller.
#3 - The Untouchables
Director: Brian De Palma
Also Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro
IMDb Score: 7.9
Starring Connery in arguably his second most memorable role, The Untouchables is the story of the group of policemen who brought down Al Capone in the early 1930s. Widely recognised as one of the best films of De Palma’s career, it is an organised crime classic that saw Connery win his only Oscar for Supporting Actor.
While Costner plays Eliot Ness and De Niro stars as Capone himself, Connery’s Malone has many of the most quotable and memorable lines in the entire film. If you can look past his slightly unusual “Irish-American” accent, Connery’s performance is ultimately a show-stealer - not an easy feat among actors like De Niro and Costner.
#4 - The Rock
Director: Michael Bay
Also Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris
IMDb Score: 7.4
If Red October brings everything the late 80s and early 90s had to offer in a cinematic sense, then The Rock really does come up to bat for the late 90s. This film is nothing short of ridiculous. It stars Connery as a former SAS captain who partners up with an FBI chemist (I didn’t even know the FBI employed chemists?) to break into Alcatraz, where a group of rogue marines have taken tourists visiting the prison hostage.
The Rock is two hours and sixteen minutes of ludicrous nonsense. It is also incredibly enjoyable. It boasts one of the awe-inspiring one-liners of Nicolas Cage’s career (a bold statement) and is easily the best film Michael Bay has ever been involved with. Not for the faint of heart and not to be taken seriously.
#5 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Director: Steven Spielberg
Also Starring: Harrison Ford, Alison Doody
IMDb Score: 8.2
The highest-ranking film on this list, according to IMDb, The Last Crusade stars Connery as Indy’s estranged dad, Henry Jones Sr. An action-adventure classic, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade follows Indiana Jones’ search for his obsessive father, who has been kidnapped by Nazis while looking for the Holy Grail.
Camp, classic, and the perfect end to a trilogy that did not need a follow-up starring Shia LaBeouf, The Last Crusade also won an Oscar for Sound Effects Editing. It stars Connery largely against type as a quirky academic in old age, rather than a long-serving member of the military, police, or intelligence service.
While these five films are by no means the only ones worth watching from across Connery’s catalogue, they’re certainly not a bad place to start. In a career spanning a staggering 58 years, Sir Sean starred in more than 70 films. A hugely iconic figure in Western cinema, the man and his roles will undoubtedly be remembered fondly for decades to come.